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(LEAD) S. Korea holds meeting with U.S., Japan on N. Korean issues

All Headlines 19:06 June 05, 2019

(ATTN: RECAST headline, lead; ADDS details in 2nd para, last 4 paras)

SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea held working-level talks with the United States and Japan to discuss various agenda items related to North Korea, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

Rhee Dong-yeol, director-general of the Korean Peninsula Peace Regime Bureau, met Alex Wong, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, over the outbreak of African swine fever in North Korea at the foreign ministry in Seoul on Tuesday, according to the sources familiar with the matter.

In the talks, Rhee reportedly briefed the U.S. official on a proposal Seoul has made to Pyongyang for inter-Korean cooperation to prevent the virus. Rhee said Seoul is waiting for the North's response.

If the North accepts the offer, South Korea would need U.S. approval on sanctions exemptions for the transport of equipment necessary to take preventive measures.

Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho told reporters earlier that the government needs to consult with the U.S. on its push for cross-border cooperation with the North against the swine fever.

Last month, North Korea reported to the World Organization for Animal Health the outbreak of African swine fever at a farm in its northern region bordering China.

Rhee and Wong also discussed Seoul's plan to send food aid to the North.

The World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization said in a recent joint report that food shortages in the impoverished communist state are worsening, and called for donations.

The two officials also held a separate meeting with a Japanese official on Wednesday to discuss other North Korea-related issues, according to the foreign ministry.

The three countries exchanged opinions on various agenda items surrounding the Korean Peninsula, an official from the ministry said without providing further details.

The meeting is a follow-up to the meeting held last month by chief nuclear envoys of the three countries in Singapore, sources said.

The chief nuclear envoys held closed-door talks on May 31 to explore ways to break the current impasse in negotiations on North Korea's denuclearization. They were at the 18th Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, which brought together defense ministers and top-level officials from major countries.

A South Korean quarantine official sprays disinfectant on a road in Paju, a city north of Seoul bordering North Korea, on June 3, 2019. (Yonhap)

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